The Chicago Blackhawks haven't faced the Florida Panthers since the two teams started the 2009-10 season with a pair of games in Helsinki, Finland, which they split. That was a quiet beginning to what wound up being a great season for the Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup.
Many players are gone from the 'Hawks since then, and it's taken them two-thirds of a season to get back to the winning ways that saw them blaze through the playoffs last spring. Now the hottest team in the league heads to warm south Florida looking for their ninth straight win.
The Blackhawks have won nine straight games only one other time in their history -- two seasons ago, after a somewhat slow start and a coaching change, they won nine in a row from Dec. 7 through Dec. 28, 2008. That was the lead-in to their first appearance in a conference finals since 1995.
Now they have a chance to do it again, and Corey Crawford seems to have solidified in goal to the point where he has a legitimate shot at the Calder Trophy. More good news: Duncan Keith will definitely be in action tonight; he suffered a minor finger injury Sunday against Toronto.
Tonight's game will begin at 6:30 p.m. CST and be televised on CSN Chicago.